Stone Telling

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by Shweta Narayan


My mother speaks her love in quilts
and stained glass; in facets -
which orange for the border do you think, paneer
      goes well with mint, you're far too young
to be tired all the -

   bright wedges.

My watercolor words pool
translucent, stark: just can't
breathe, might be
-- pain
       into green into grey
too dark a story. Her brother
died last year. Mine
doesn't sleep.

I wish in worried layers, fading
as they dry. I wash out palettes
gone to mud, shut messy dreams
in drawers, echo
her patchwork
precision: send their love
you sound well.
I send
orange and purple paintings:
trunk-curled prayers
    for my breath
or for hers. I don't send stories.


           We are amethyst
and mauve, mismatched --
    too close. We mix,
clay and water, into mud. Why don't you
       write happy stories?

 they're not true. Because I sleepless crossed
the ice field with no shadows
   and I have no other words.
                           her tears glittered,
that once - not fair, such pain, he never hurt
anyone, your aunt is shattered.
So am I,
       she meant. I held her, frightened
to find her frail.) She says that's why
 we need color.

We dream in glass and water
  layers, translucent.
                               She shows me
rooms where palettes line the walls, breathless
with batik; lapis and olive bright as sari
       patches; for a peacock, she tells
wide eyes
or I do. We piece together color
     contrasts, overlapping stories
     gem-tones eddying
           I dream to her
      in cotton and stained glass, paint
wings edged with fresh-ground turmeric. She feathers in
cinnamon, turns -- winged, spice-fingered, graceful
     in batik, caught
fast between possible and perfect.
She frowning says this will be difficult

I'm not sure where
to start.

             I mix mint
and paneer into leaf-tones
and tell her yes
   we'll make mistakes
   and pick them out
   and patch it together

Shweta Narayan was smelted in India's summer, quenched in the monsoon, wound up on words in Malaysia, and pointed westwards. She surfaced in Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, and Scotland before settling in California, where she lives on language, veggie tacos, and the internet. The quilt she and her mother are making is Officially In Progress. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in places like Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, and Jabberwocky. She was the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship recipient at the 2007 Clarion workshop. Shweta can be found on the web at

Photography: adapted from Peacock window, Bhaktapur, by Dey Alexander.